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The information in this section is provided to assist H-1B employees and their dependent family members in understanding the benefits and limitations of H-4 dependent status. Please note that H-1B employees have the responsibility for obtaining and ensuring immigration compliance for any dependents in H-4 status. The International Center can provide general advice or refer you to an immigration attorney for assistance on specific matters relating to the legal affairs of family members.

H-4 Status Defined

H-1B employees can request H-4 status for their legal spouse and/or dependent unmarried minor children under the age of 21. Dependent children lose H-4 status when they get married or turn 21, whichever comes first. Since H-4 status is based on the principal H-1B employee's status, dependents lose H-4 status if the employee ends or otherwise ceases to maintain valid H-1B status.

H-4 Study and Employment Benefits

Dependents in H-4 status are permitted to study while in the US, on either a part-time or full-time basis. H-4 dependents are not allowed to work while in the US. However, certain H-4 spouses may be eligible to apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for H-4 employment authorization. Employment authorization is typically available only if the principal H-1B employee is at an advanced stage of the US permanent residence process.

Obtaining and Extending H-4 Status

Procedures for acquiring and extending H-4 status will vary depending on whether the dependents are accompanying you or will seek H-4 status at a later date. Please read the descriptions below for specific guidance.